Energy Systems Integration Newsletter: July 2019

Video: U.S. Army Saves Big with Large Scale Storage; Jennifer Daw Talks Energy-Water Nexus; Evaluating Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities in Wind Energy

Text version

Large Scale Storage System Means Big Savings for U.S. Army

The results from an NREL assessment of a U.S. Army storage system are revealed in a new video. The battery energy storage system (BESS) stationed at Fort Carson will save $500,000/year in energy costs over the next 20 years.

The BESS is the largest peak-energy shaving (highest savings during peak hours) battery within the U.S. Department of Defense. The 8.5-MWh capacity can be charged at night and used during the day when energy costs are highest.

NREL used REopt™, the lab's techno-economic optimization tool, to both optimize the BESS' preliminary design and assess its energy cost savings. The REopt analysis will improve Fort Carson's resilience against future grid events.

Q&A with Jennifer Daw: Working at the Crossroads of Energy, Water, and Land

Balancing the needs of food, water, and energy is becoming one of the most important trends in sustainability strategy, and we talked with one of its experts, Jennifer Daw, the group manager of strategy, policy, and implantation within NREL's Integrated Application Center.

In less than a decade, Daw has witnessed her background in water systems sustainability become more relevant than ever, as governments and businesses turn to ways that disparate systems can be co-optimized for efficiency.

Read an edited version of our conversation with Daw.

Grid-Edge Conference Includes NREL-Research on Customers' Solar Energy Use

As energy generation moves out to the grid edge, its data follows. How to locate, incorporate, and make the most of that data was the topic of a recent conference in Atlanta, which included a presentation by NREL's Yingchen Zhang, the group manager of sensing and predictive analytics at NREL.

The conference, titled the Smart Grid Edge Analytics Workshop, was a National Science Foundation-sponsored event to understand data at the grid edge. Zhang's presentation centered specifically on his group's techniques for estimating and forecasting solar use on customer devices and advanced data analytics techniques.

Their research fills a data gap, in which customer use of solar energy isn't captured by metering devices because it's "behind the meter." Zhang's presentation discussed how solar forecasting techniques can be combined with estimations of customer load to create accurate data about customers' solar energy use.

NREL plays a very active role in shaping grid edge research, which has special importance to NREL's research into grid sensing and measurement. To get a better understanding of the grid edge and what it means for customers, watch this concise overview.

Workshop Convenes Experts to Evaluate the Impact of Cybersecurity on U.S. Wind Farms

Earlier this month, NREL hosted a multi-stakeholder workshop to evaluate the growing potential for cybersecurity vulnerabilities on U.S. wind farms. The workshop, "Assessing the Impact of Cybersecurity on the Nation's Wind Farms," brought together the expertise of researchers across the national lab complex, the wind energy industry, original equipment manufacturers, cybersecurity product vendors, and standards organizations.

With support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO), the primary goal of the workshop was to help inform the DOE Wind-Cybersecurity Roadmap, as well as new cybersecurity standards developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission's Technical Committee 88. The DOE Wind-Cybersecurity Roadmap will outline the challenges and opportunities for the nation's growing wind power industry, especially with the rising use of digital technologies on the grid.

Read more about the workshop in NREL program news.

NREL Opens Its Doors to ARPA-E Innovation Summit Attendees

NREL's South Table Mountain Campus hosted nearly 200 individuals from academia, industry, and government on July 10 for an Innovation Workshop, part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Energy Innovation Summit. The summit was held in Denver, the first time the event has been held outside of Washington, D.C.

The workshop kicked off with NREL Director Martin Keller providing an overview of megatrends impacting the generation and use of energy and NREL's strategy to address related energy challenges. Associate Laboratory Director for Energy Systems Integration Juan Torres spoke to attendees about the trend toward electrification as the cost of generating electricity continues to call.

"Today's electric grid was built for century-old needs," Torres said. "Not the needs of tomorrow's emerging system."

The workshop also offered attendees the opportunity to tour the Energy Systems Integration Facility, Science and Technology Facility, and Solar Energy Research Facility.

NREL's Juan Torres Testifies on Grid Modernization and Cybersecurity Before U.S. House Committee

Juan Torres, Associate Lab Director of Energy Systems Integration at NREL, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Subcommittee on Energy on July 17, 2019. Torres specifically focused his testimony on grid modernization and cybersecurity, emphasizing the integration of security into the research and development of the future grid.

"As long as we need electricity to remain economically competitive, to defend our nation against evolving threats, and to maintain our way of life, we will need to continually advance our electric infrastructure," said Torres.

The committee queried Torres on a variety of topics, including the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in both grid control and as generators of cyber-attacks, the role of microgrids in securing the future energy grid, and the importance of developing and educating the researchers of the future.

"It's not just getting the future workforce out there," Torres said. "We need to continue to get people to advance their education."

The full hearing is available for viewing on the Committee's website.

USAID-NREL Partnership Launches Resilient Energy Platform to Help Countries Plan Reliable and Secure Energy Systems

Because of weaknesses within infrastructure, systems, or operations, the power sector is susceptible to natural, technological, and human-caused threats. The USAID-NREL Partnership helps take the guesswork out of planning for power sector resilience with the new Resilient Energy Platform. The platform provides expertly curated resources, training materials, data, tools, and direct technical assistance for planning resilient, sustainable, and secure power systems.

To learn more, visit the Resilient Energy Platform website or download some of the new resources including the Power Sector Resilience Planning Guidebook, topic-specific quick-reads about Institutional Solutions to Enhance Power Sector Resilience and Power Sector Resilience Technical Solutions, and the general fact sheet in English, Spanish, or Lao.

ARPA-E Investment in NREL Pays Dividends in Advancing Energy Tech

Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) is a unique program within DOE that funds high-risk, high-reward energy research.

Modeled on a Department of Defense (DoD) effort to put emerging technologies into the hands of the military, ARPA-E provides funds to overcome roadblocks that might otherwise prevent promising energy ideas from reaching the public.

Projects funded by ARPA-E are showcased at the agency's annual Energy Innovation Summit, which this year was held July 8-10 at the Gaylord Rockies Convention Center in Aurora, Colorado. This marks the first time the summit was conducted outside of Washington, D.C.

One of the projects featured at the event was "Real-Time Optimization and Control of Next-Generation Distribution Infrastructure," led by a team of researchers at NREL. Now in its last year of ARPA-E funding, the project has demonstrated the ability of control systems to balance the amount of energy demanded by consumers with power generated by either a utility or a distributed energy resource such as a residential solar array.

"We started with very small experiments, with 10 devices," said Andrey Bernstein, the current PI on the project. "This was successful, so we gradually extended it to 100 devices at NREL to show how it scales."

Read this NREL news article for more on this project and other ARPA-E projects NREL is leading.

Report Breaks Down DER Interconnection for Utilities

Amid the accelerating shift toward distributed energy resources (DERs), and specifically distributed rooftop solar, utilities need guidance. Drawing from NREL's work with Hawaiian utilities to navigate uncharted waters of their energy transformation, and their ongoing support for individual utilities both across the nation and world, a new collaborative has published a guidebook for utility management of distributed generation, titled An Overview of Distributed Energy Resource (DER) Interconnection: Current Practices and Emerging Solutions.

The report broadly covers technologies, their related behaviors and standards, and what it all means for utilities. "The report is targeted at a high-level, strategic-planning audience of utilities who are seeking an overview of DER interconnection issues and approaches," states the document's introduction. "The audience includes investor-owned utilities), municipal utilities, and cooperatives with a range of current DER penetration levels."

The Distributed Generation Interconnection Collaborative (DGIC), led by Electric Power Research Institute and NREL, authored the report. The DGIC recognized that while some areas of interconnection have established standards and best practices, many are still nascent. Furthermore, the most suitable practice will vary across many factors—the utility, customer, developer, preferences, and level of DER penetration. This report can be referenced as a sort of guidebook that treats each factor, and how they relate to specific cases.

As these approaches continue to evolve, and standards development is ongoing, the DGIC intends to stay on top of changes. For the moment, however, utilities now have an effective resource for interconnecting DERs on their unique grid.

Newly Released Publications

A Comparison of Fuel Choice for Backup Generators
When the power goes out, businesses have a couple options for protecting themselves. This report from the NREL-managed Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis compares the cost benefits and reliability of two generator types—natural gas versus diesel-fueled. The report also considers two generator configurations—one in which the generator is used exclusively for backup, and the other which operates when the grid is functioning. The researchers found that the economics and reliability of the options are situationally dependent—grid-connected natural gas systems were found to be ahead in revenue generation, while diesel generators had lower capital costs.

Toward a subhourly net zero energy district design through integrated building and distribution system modeling
This paper, published in AIP, Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, links power systems and energy use in buildings through a newly developed modeling framework. The framework is useful for net zero energy districts, allowing users to select both supply-side generation technologies, and demand-side efficiency measures. The team used Denver's Peña Station NEXT—a 100-building, 1200-node smart city—as a case study. On the city, the team conducted scenario analyses around sizing for distributed energy resources, and considering objectives such as capital cost, net energy import, and equipment violations. Their work will help new developments plan for net zero energy use on an annual, down to subhourly, basis.

Distributionally-robust chance constrained and interval optimization for integrated electricity and natural gas systems optimal power flow with wind uncertainties
Natural gas and electric systems (IEGSs) are becoming more integrated, but these systems are coming online alongside a much less predictable resource: wind power. This paper published in Elsevier, Applied Energy, presents an optimization framework for energy dispatch of IEGSs, while considering impact from the variable output of wind power. The authors model both wind power forecasts, and power variations of gas-fired units, and verify the models with a case study. Outcomes of this research target reduced costs and increased security of IEGSs.